Manitoba’s top doctor expected to speak on possible COVID-19 restrictions at 12:30 p.m.

Manitoba is tightening COVID-19 restrictions by reverting indoor gathering sizes to two designated people, other than people who normally live at the residence, and reducing outdoor gathering sizes on public and private property to 10 people, including members of the household.

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Manitobans may learn today whether the province plans to impose new COVID-19 restrictions to try to tamp down the impact of the third wave.

Premier Brian Pallister will join Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin for a news conference at 12:30 p.m.

CBC Manitoba will live stream the news conference here and on Facebook, Twitter and CBC Gem.

Last Monday, Roussin hinted that new restrictions, such as an outdoor mask mandate or tighter restrictions on indoor activities, could be coming.

The seven-day average for daily cases had increased from about 75 one month ago to 121 Monday, after the province gradually relaxed restrictions starting in January, and data showed increasing numbers of close contacts of positive cases.

No new restrictions were announced last week, and on Friday, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal said the province’s daily case counts appeared to have plateaued.

The next day, however, Manitoba saw its highest daily case count since January, with 183 new cases announced. The seven-day average now sits around 138. 

The update comes on the same day the province announced it will follow Ontario and Alberta’s lead in dropping the eligibility age for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to 40 and older.

All Manitobans 40 and older can now book a vaccination appointment with a doctor or pharmacist. 

The province also changed the age of eligibility to receive a vaccine at a supersite or pop-up clinic to 54 and older for all Manitobans, and 34 and older for First Nations people.

Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for age 18 and up in February but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization more recently recommended its use on people younger than 55 be suspended as it looked into reports of rare blood clots in some patients.

Before the change announced Monday, the AstraZeneca vaccine was available only to Manitobans 55 and older with certain health conditions or other risk factors.

On Sunday, the federal government said the provinces and territories may set the eligibility for the vaccine to anyone 18 or older, as some pharmacists warned they had doses sitting idle because of the restrictions.

“Provinces and territories are free to use AstraZeneca in any population over 18 per Health Canada’s license for use in Canada,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters.

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